MORAGA -- Danielle Mauldin has emerged as one of the nation's elite rebounders, despite being one of the smallest post players in the West Coast Conference.

She 6-foot tall -- barely -- but few in the nation are as dominant on the boards as the Saint Mary's College senior.

With her long arms and strong body, the Emeryville native and St. Mary's High graduate is just three rebounds shy of setting new conference and school career rebounding records.

"She just has such a knack for the ball," Gaels teammate Jackie Nared said of Mauldin. "She just goes and gets it no matter what. There's so much fight in her. If she wants the ball she'll get it."

After tallying 30 boards in wins over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount last week — a pretty typical week's work for Mauldin — don't be surprised to see her surpass the mark of 1,122 set by former Saint Mary's star Louella Tomlinson early on in the Gaels' next game, Jan. 25 at Pacific.

"I'm not after my stats, but it would be a great accomplishment to get it," Mauldin said. "It's not my goal, my goal is to win."

Her impressive season -- she's also one of the conference's top scorers -- is a big reason why the Gaels are winning at a high rate. At 16-3 overall and 6-2 in conference play, Saint Mary's is second in the WCC and has a chance to make a rare NCAA appearance with a strong finish to the regular season.

They've already knocked off nationally-ranked Gonzaga in overtime earlier this year when Mauldin poured in 24 points, including the game-winning free throws, and grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds.

"She just has it under her rib cage and between her ears," Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas said. "She just wants the ball. She's a warrior."

Thomas said he saw Mauldin turning into a dominant college player when he recruited her out of St. Mary's, where she led the Panthers reach the Division IV state championship game as a senior. She quickly proved him right.

Mauldin has been one of the conference's most productive rebounders since her freshman year at Saint Mary's, finishing in the WCCs' top 10 in her first season despite coming off the bench most of the year.

She's gotten better every year.

Last season, she led the conference with 10.8 rebounds per game.

She's doing it again this season, and it's not even close.

Her 13.9 rebounds per game rank No. 4 in the nation and with 15 double-doubles on the year, she's tied with four others for the NCAA lead.

So how is she able to post such gaudy numbers despite being undersized?

"I think it's timing and knowing where the ball is going to go," Mauldin said. "Just being able to look at those spots and see where you have to go to get around those big people."

These past two years, she's also relished getting to play with her younger sister, Shannon. The sophomore guard recently earned a starting role when Lauren Nicholson was lost with a foot injury.

"We're still working on that sisterly connection on the court, we haven't got there yet," Mauldin said. "I'm just proud of what she's been doing."

Her sister could probably say the same. Other teammates do.

"Danielle's a superstar," Nared said. "She's ridiculous on the boards. Some of the rebounds she gets, it's like 'where did that come from.' She's an amazing player, an amazing teammate."

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